British Island Stories: History, Identity and Nationhood
KING'S MANOR, UNIVERSITY OF YORK, 17-19 APRIL 2002
British Island Stories: History, Identity and Nationhood (BRISHIN) is funded under the ESRC's Devolution & Constitutional Change Programme. BRISHIN began in June, 2001 and lasts for three years. We are holding our first BRISHIN conference between 17-19 April, 2002 in York.
Conference key speakers include:
Professor Linda Colley (author of Britons: Forging the Nation)
Professor Norman Davies (author of The Isles: A History)
Professor David Eastwood (joint-editor of A Union of Multiple Identities)
Dr Robert Phillips (author of History Teaching, Nationhood & the State)
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (author of Who Do We Think We Are? Imagining the New
Britain & columnist with The Independent)
Professor Tariq Modood, (Founding editor of Ethnicities)
About 80 academics from a range of disciplines will be coming together to discuss the central themes of the project (see below). We are now inviting scholars from a wide range of disciplines (such as history, cultural/media studies, education, archaeology, anthropology, politics, sociology and other social sciences) from across the United Kingdom, Ireland and abroad to give papers and participate.
We are particularly interested in papers that explore:
Theoretical perspectives on nationhood, culture and identity
The politics of heritage and commemoration
Historiography and national identity
Film and nationhood
Education, textbooks and nationhood
Archaeology and nationhood
Politicians, history and identity
‘Street’ history and popular discourse
Media and the construction of nationhood
Museums and nation building
Historical literature and nationhood
Further details of these themes are below.
Invited participants who have accepted include:
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Arthur Aughey (Ulster), Sarah Barber (Lancaster), Keith Barton (Cincinnati), Stefan Berger (Glamorgan), Helen Brocklehurst (Swansea), George Boyce (Swansea), Timothy Champion (Southampton), Linda Colley (LSE), Stefan Collini (Cambridge), Elizabeth Crooke (Ulster), Cedric Cullingford (Huddersfield), Norman Davies (Oxford), Margarita Diaz-Andreux (Durham), Bella Dicks (Cardiff), Simon Ditchfield (York), David Eastwood (AHRB), Eric Evans (Lancaster), Hugo Frey (Chichester), Stephen Haseler (L’ Guildhall), Eilean Hooper-Greenhill (Leicester), Charlie Jeffery (ESRC), Keith Jenkins (Chichester), Sian Jones (Manchester), Hugh Kearney, Ann Low-Beer, David Lowenthal (UCL), Ken Lunn (Portsmouth), David McCrone (Edinburgh), Alan McCully (Ulster), Sharon McDonald (Sheffield), Tariq Modood, (Bristol), Alun Morgan (HMI), Alexander Murdoch (Edinburgh), Alan O’ Day (Queen’s), John Oakland (NTNU, Norway), Rob Phillips (Swansea), Murray Pittock (Edinburgh), Keith Robbins (Lampeter), Bill Schwarz (Goldsmiths), Alan Smith (Ulster), Andrew Thompson (Glamorgan), Brian Walker (Queen’s), Fiona Watson (Stirling), Chris Williams (Cardiff), Sydney Wood (Dundee).
It is intended that conference papers will be used as the basis of a major book series on the theme of Re-Imagining Britain: History, Identity & Nationhood.
King’s Manor is an excellent venue and the BRISHIN Conference follows previous successful conferences held at York which have also explored issues relating to history, identity and nationhood (see Cubbitt, 1998, Arnold et al, 1999). We hope to take this work forward. Details of cost, accommodation arrangements and the detailed programme will be made available following expression of interest. The cost of the conference will be £70.00, which covers the cost of the conference itself, as well as all food and hospitality. Accommodation is not included: as York is well served by excellent guest houses and hotels, the usual procedure for delegates at King's Manor is for them to arrange their own accommodation. This works very well indeed, as most accommodation is very reasonably priced and located within close proximity to King's Manor, which is centred in the very heart of the city.
If you are interested in contributing a paper please could send the title of your paper and a short abstract (no more than 200 words) and send it to Helen Brocklehurst either via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by post to the address below by January 31st, 2002.
We look forward to hearing from you. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require any additional information at this stage.
British Island Stories: History, Identity and Nationhood
Theoretical perspectives on history, nationhood and identity: in many ways, this relationship has been under-theorised. More work is needed which explores the relationship between the past and the present (Fowler, 1992; Furedi, 1992). In particular the complex ways in which visions of the past impact upon national identities in Britain (Hobsbawm & Granger, 1983; Arnold et al, 1999, Lunn, 1996). In what ways has history contributed to the formation of ‘multiple’ identities? (Brockliss & Eastwood, 1997) and to debates over devolution? (Aughey, 2001).
Historiography and national identity: the last 25 years or so have witnessed the growth of a ‘new’ British history, associated with the work of historians such as Kearney (1989), Colley (1996), Samuel (1998) and Davies (1999). How can this work be conceptualised? What impact has it had upon historiographical interpretations of Britain? Has there been a shift away, in Samuel’s words, from the ‘centre’ (England) to the ‘periphery’? And what have been the major historiographical developments in Wales, Scotland and Ireland? To what extent has historiography in Britain been influenced by post-colonialism? (Alibhai Brown, 2000; Schwarz, 1996). Have these developments contributed to, or been influenced by, devolved government and changing notions of national identity?
Museums and nation building: it has long been recognised that museums play an important symbolic role in the construction of knowledge and nation (Hooper-Greenhill, 1992). What is the precise role that museums play in national life today? Do they express new forms of identity or reinforce more traditional visions of identity and ‘the nation’? (Crooke 2001)
Education, history textbooks and nationhood: school history was fiercely contested during the last quarter of the twentieth century, and reflected wider debates over nation, culture and identity (Phillips, 1998). School history curricula and textbooks reflected traditional notions of British national identity (Berghahn & Schissler, 1987). To what extent have these visions changed? Is it possible to talk in terms of ‘four nation’ school history? (Phillips et al, 1999) And how can school history contribute to citizenship and to undermining racism? (Runnymede, 2000).
The politics of heritage and commemoration: heritage plays a massive role in contemporary national and cultural life (Lowenthal, 1997). What visions of Britishness are portrayed by the heritage industry? Are these visions nostalgic or reflexive? In what ways is commemoration expressed in Britain and what does this tell us about national identity? (Gillis, 1994).
Media and the construction of nationhood: the media play a vital role in the construction of nationhood and identity, for example in the portrayal of ‘the other’ (Allan, 1999). History has permeated the media in a number of ways, for example, via ‘history debates’ in the press (Phillips & Brocklehurst, 2002) and in the explosion of interest in history programmes on television, most notably reflected in Schama’s History of Britain (Schama, 2000). What visions of British nationhood are portrayed in these images?
Film and nationhood: similarly, films have been heavily implicated in contributing to traditional images of Britain, as well as the emergence of ‘new’ forms of identity (Morgan, 1999). To what extent have film industries overseas impacted here? More work needs to be done to explore the ways in which film has contributed to debates over identity and nationhood.
‘Street’ history and popular discourse: it may be that ‘street’ or ‘popular’ history plays a far more direct and influential role than more conventional portrayals of history (Walker, 1996). Do we need to look again at the ways in which popular myths, stories and local histories influence identity?
Archaeology and nationhood: there has been an exciting growth in recent years of theoretical work which explores the ways in which archaeology has been implicated in debates over nationhood in Europe and in other parts of the world (Marguerita & Champion, 1996; Kohl & Fawcett, 1995). What role does archaeology play in debates of national identity in Britain?
Politicians, history and identity: politicians often use historical references points when contributing to debates over devolution, nationhood and sensitive issues such as immigration (Breese, 1998). Work needs to be done to analyse these discourses in a more systematic way
Historical literature and nationhood: How does literature contribute to historical reimaginings and nationhood.
Alibhai-Brown, Y (2000) Who Do We Think We Are? Imagining the New Britain. London, Penguin.
Allan, S. (1999) News Culture; Issues in Cultural and Media Studies, Open University Press, Buckingham.
Arnold, J, Davies K & Ditchfield S, eds. (1998) History & Heritage: Consuming the Past in Contemporary Culture, Shaftsbury, Donhead.
Aughey, A (2001) Nationalism, Devolution and the Challenge to the United Kingdom State, London, Pluto.
Berghahn, V. & Schissler, H, eds. (1987) Perceptions of History – an analysis of school textbooks, Oxford, Berg.
Breese, S (1998) ‘In Search of Englishness, In Search of Votes’, in Arnold, J, Davies, K & Ditchfield, S. eds. History and Heritage: Consuming the Past in Contemporary Culture, Shaftesbury, Donhead.
Brockliss, L. & Eastwood, D (1997) A Union of Multiple Identities: The British Isles 1750-1850. Manchester, Manchester University Press.
Colley, L (1992) Britons: forging the nation, Yale University Press
Crooke, E (2001) Confronting a troubled history: which past in Northern Ireland’s museums? International Journal of Heritage Studies, 7 (2).
Cubitt, G, (1998) Imagining Nations, Manchester, Manchester University Press.
Davies, N (1999) The Isles: A History, London, Macmillan.
Marguerita D. & Champion T (1996) eds. Nationalism and Archaeology in Europe, London: University College.
Fowler, P (1992) The Past in Contemporary Society: Then, Now, London, Routledge.
Furedi, F (1992) Mythical Past, Elusive Future: History and Society in an Anxious Age, London, Pluto Press.
Gillis, J, ed. (1994) Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity, Princeton, Princeton University Press.
Hobsbawm, E. & Ranger, T. (Eds) (1983) The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Hooper-Greenhill, E (1992) Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge, London, Routledge.
Kearney, Hugh (1995) The British Isles: a History of Four Nations, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Kohl, P. L. & Fawcett C, ed. (1995) Nationalism, Politics and the practice of Archaeology, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Lowenthal, D (1997) The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History, Cambridge, Viking
Lunn, K (1996) ‘Reconsidering ‘Britishness’: The construction and significance of national identity in twentieth century Britain’, in B. Jenkins & S. Sofos eds. National and Identity in Contemporary Europe. London, Routledge.
Morgan, S (1999) The ghost in the luggage: Wallace and Braveheart: post-colonial ‘pioneer’ identities. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 2 (3): 375-392.
Phillips, R. & Brocklehurst, H (2002, forthcoming) ‘You’re History!’: Culture, Nationhood and the Media
Phillips, R (1998) History Teaching, Nationhood and the State: a study in educational politics London, Cassell.
Phillips, R., Goalen, P., McCulley, A. & Wood, S. (1999) Four Histories, One Nation ? History teaching, nationhood and a British identity, Compare, Vol.29, No.2.
Runnymede Trust (2000) The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain: Report of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain (The Parekh Report), London, Profile Books.
Samuel, R. (1998) Island Stories: Unravelling Britain, London, Verso.
Schama, S. (2000) A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World? London, BBC Worldwide.
Schwarz, B. (1996) The expansion of England: race, ethnicity & cultural history, London, Routledge.
Walker, B (1996) Dancing to History's Tune: History, Myth and Politics in Ireland, Belfast, Queen's/ Institute of Irish Studies.
British Island Stories:
History, Nationhood and Identity
BRISHIN is a major research project which started on 1 June, 2001 at the University of Wales Swansea. It is directed by Dr Robert Phillips, Senior Lecturer in History Education. The project, which will last for three years, is funded under the ESRC’s Devolution and Constitutional Change Programme, which seeks to analyse the devolution process, as well as the changing nature of British re-configuration, over a five-year period.
The central aim of BRISHIN is to explore empirically and theoretically the conceptual relationship between history, nationhood and state-formation, and to consider the implications for the re-configuration of British national identity. BRISHIN will show how history has shaped national identities within Britain by examining three important inter-connected sites of historical representation, namely historiography, school history and history debates in the media:
1. ‘New’ historical orientations over the past 25 years or so have meant that, using Raphael Samuel’s telling phrase, a range of alternative historical ‘island stories’ have emerged. By comparing and contrasting the portrayal of nationhood and identity within these texts, and by exploring their impact upon, for example, political discourse and school history, BRISHIN will provide an insight into the ways in which historians have been implicated in the process of British ‘re-imagination’.
2. The major focus of the research is upon school history; as with historiography, school history was traditionally characterised by the conflation of England/Britain, but in recent years devolved history curricula have emerged in Britain. By comparing school history curricula and textbooks in each of the constituent parts of Britain, the research will show whether the historical images presented are likely to encourage a narrow form of national identity or help promote a range of multiple identities.
3. BRISHIN will describe the ways in which the ‘great history debate’ over school history has been represented in the press to determine whether the media bolster British identity or encourage diverse regional/national variations.
By examining the ways in which history is portrayed and debated in Britain, BRISHIN will reveal much about the dynamics of contemporary national re-configuration. It will shed light upon the important intellectual factors that account for changing national identities within Britain, and for the shifting relationship between England and the rest of the British Isles. The research may also tell us about British national identity in the future.
Dr. Helen Brocklehurst
Department of Education
University of Wales
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